(ANSA) - BELGRADE, MAY 21 - Slovenia has the highest share of protected land area among European Union member states, according to data released by Eurostat today. The EU has a large coordinated network of protected areas, known as Natura 2000, consisting of approximately 27,000 terrestrial and marine sites, Eurostat recalled. In 2019, Natura 2000 sites represented 20% or more of the total land area in twelve EU countries, with the highest shares recorded in Slovenia (38%, or 7,700 km2), Croatia (37%, or 20,700 km2) and Bulgaria (35%, or 38,700 km2), Eurostat said. A share higher than the 18% EU average was observed also in Slovakia (29%), Greece (27%), Romania (23%), Hungary (21%) and Poland (20%). Among the countries with lowest shares of land protected areas, Latvia (12%, or 7,400 km2). In 2019, more than 440,000 km2 of the sea waters were protected as marine Natura 2000 areas, Eurostat added. Between 2018 and 2019, Croatia (+5%, 300 km2) was among the countries that registered the highest increase of protected areas, while in absolute terms the largest marine Natura 2000 areas are currently located in France and Spain. (ANSA).